Richmond First United Methodist News and Events
Interpretation, Genesis 32:22-31
Pastor Dan Damon, Richmond 1st UMC, 8-3-14
We live in a world marred by wars and rumors of wars. People claim God is on their side as they kill, kidnap, and steal. They claim they are the chosen ones, on the chosen way, following the true faith. They cite the Bible, the Koran, or some other holy authority as a way of staking claims that feed their desire for power. We may feel powerless to understand these tides of hate, let alone to stop them from continuing down through the ages.
I heard the phrase “our sphere of influence” last week at Journey Farthest Out camp. Ian Adamson, the speaker, does interventions with seriously mentally ill people. He is the CEO of a non-profit organization with 35 employees. He said we can make changes within our sphere of influence. We can till the soil where we are, we can love the people around us with a consistent, long-term love [like the steadfast love of God] which will make a difference to some. If we cannot do everything, we can still do something.
Retell the Scripture Story
All of us have stories of origin— stories that tell us where we come from. We may tell them often, or never. We may be fully conscious of their implications, or more or less unconscious. We have scientific and biological origins, faith origins, cultural and language origins. These stories give our lives meaning. They help us move on from tragedy. They give us hope for the future. These can be called “master stories” [James Fowler, Stages of Faith] or etiological tales [and this is the reason that to this day the place is called…] Stories of origin in science [the big bang, but what was before the space dust?] take us only so far. They are limited. Stories of origin in religions, [Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Native American spiritualities] help us understand who we are and how we are to live, but they only take us so far, and they require thoughtful and compassionate interpretation. We all have stories of origin. We may not tell them often. We may not even be fully aware of them, but we have them.
We have been hearing readings from the Abraham saga in Genesis [even Psalm 105:11 from last week says, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.”] We have heard the origin story and the covenant God made with Abraham. We have heard that the Jews are “God’s chosen people.” Have you heard of “the scandal of particularity?” In Christian stories, the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us [John 1:14]. Jesus, a man, God/human, in limited place and time, particular, scandalous because Jesus is a particular gender, in one place and time, the product of one religious tradition [Judaism.] In the Hebrew scriptures God works with particular people, too, making covenants with Adam [and Eve], Noah [and his family and all the animals], Abraham and Sarah [also caring for Hagar and Ishmael], David, and Jeremiah’s covenant written on the human heart. In these stories we see a developing awareness of humanity in relation to the highest good which is love. In Micah 6:8 we read [and sing] “What does the Lord require of you but to love kindness, to do justice, and to walk humbly with your God.” Notice the humility. We do not have all the answers.
Where do you come from? What is your ultimate concern? [Paul Tillich] What stories give your life meaning? [Are you the “black sheep” of your family? I told myself I was for years. It is bad in two ways: It equates black with being bad, and it perpetuates my acting out in harmful ways.] What stories are you telling yourself? Are the interpretations helpful or harmful? Do you see God loving only you and those like you, or do you see the universal vision that James Fowler talks about in “Stages of Faith” the stories and religious symbols that point beyond themselves to the beautiful, mystical vision of peace of earth and justice for all creation?
In the Abraham saga we hear of God’s covenant relationship with Abram, now called Abraham. It is good that God works with individuals, families and nations. It is devastating if we interpret this to mean one family or nation can disregard the human rights and dignity of other persons, families, and nations. We are seeing tragic loss of life every day because people interpret these stories in destructive, selfish, even maniacal ways. There are horrible stories of origin in the Bible. Many sensitive and thoughtful people quit reading the Bible and stop attending church when they read these stories, or hear them read in worship. The God who is love is misunderstood as a God of military conquest and vengeance. We need to purge this way of thinking and acting from our selves and from our societies. This takes time, and effort, and willingness to change. We do not arrive at perfection in this life, but we continue to learn and grow, to study, and to work for the changes that we pray for. The Bible is a guide that requires interpretation, daily and weekly.
In the Psalm 17:7 today we read: “Wondrously show your steadfast love, O savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.” I think of the children on the border as I read these words. They are part of our family. With God’s help we can do something to help them. We can sing of justice, pray for both the oppressor and the oppressed, and we can use the power of God to act with compassion. How will you use the power God has given you?
In the gospel lesson today we here the good news. When faced with a large crowd of hungry people in the wilderness, Jesus tells the disciples: Give them something to eat. [He has faith in them.] Later on the disciples are tossed on the sea by a great storm, but Jesus comes to them saying: Be of good cheer; it is I; do not be afraid. Peter leaps out into the sea at Jesus’ invitation, but starts to sink. He cries, “Lord, save me.” Jesus stretched forth his hand and saves the risk taker, saying “Why did you doubt?”
According to these formative stories, we have the power to act to make a difference in this hurting and fearful world. God is with us, as God is with all creation. This means the solution rests with us, as we act with the power of the God who is love.
What are your stories of origin? How do you interpret them? Are you bound by literalism, or freed by poetry and mysticism? Can you pray with me today for peace and justice for all? Can you act in faith in your sphere of influence to feed the hungry, house the homeless, and comfort those who mourn? Let peace begin with me, with us. I have asked Sarah to conclude the sermon today with one of my hymns that has been called “post-modern”. Listen to the way it opens our “God language” and our story of origin. Does the poetry speak to a deep place within you? I hope so.
Shadow and substance,
wonder and mystery,
spellbinding spinner of atoms and earth;
Soul of the cosmos,
person and energy,
Source of our being, we sing of your worth.
We are your image,
formed in community;
sisters and brothers of Adam and Eve.
You gave us color,
custom and history;
teach us to honor what others receive.
Naming the nameless,
Spirit of unity,
scanning the heavens for signs of your care;
God of the ages,
give us humility;
guide us to mystical union in prayer.
Daniel Charles Damon Words © 1994 Hope Publishing Company
Sarah Thompson sings “Shadow and Substance.”
Let us continue in prayer
Joys and Concerns
- Pastor Dan received an email below from a friend and collaborator, Patrick Matsikenyiri who is a retired music professor at Africa University in Zimbabwe. His wife, Avis, needs a hip replacement and he lacks the financial resources for her to have the surgery. Our prayers are with them.
- Subject: It never rain, it pours. Hope this finds you well. Aves has been diagnosed Anthritis in the hip. Doctor has advised hip replacement. This is a major issue when resources are not available. I am appealing in case you know who would help some., that will be very helpful. I thought of this saying, Share happiness it multiplies, share sorrow it divides. One other way is to encourage churches , groups and individuals to buy my books from GBGM in New York and from Abingdon Publishers in Nashville Tn. The money would be deposited in my BB&T Bank No. 5134227070. We have delayed due to insufficient resources and yet the pain is deepening.. What ever help we get we will appreciate much. Hope all is well with you. Warm greetings from Aves as struggles.
- Lauren McLeod welcomes your prayers for healing.
- Sandra Kokoruda (Fran Smith’s daughter) is having severe medical problems. She recently moved to North Dakota where the medical community has been more responsive to her medical needs than here in California but she had not followed through with contact until it became emergent. Fran is particularly stressed because it’s difficult to be so far away although Sandra’s physician has been in contact with her. Pleas add them in your prayers for healing and compassionate support.
- Kristi and Russ Johnson are now in Denver awaiting the birth of a new baby and baby sitting the two year old to help out. Russ is recovering nicely from his pacemaker surgery. Please remember them in your prayers for healing.
- Molly Smith is requesting prayers for her brother who has been treated for a brain tumor for several years and has recently entered the Hospice program. Prayers for his family and her brother as they go through this very difficult time.
- Deby McFadyen is asking for prayers for her father, Jack McFadyen, who has lung cancer and has started chemotherapy She also requests prayers for a friend, Sara Talkington who has just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She’s married with a 4 year old so
- Pat Dornan and Linda Pereira continue to need your prayers of support and healing. Linda had surgery to remove the hematoma. She is home but weak.
- Robbie Robinson would appreciate your prayers.
- Helen Wysham welcomes your prayers for healing as she undergoes chemotherapy.
- Donna Roselius is requesting our prayers for healing. She continues to battle cancer and had further surgery on Tuesday. Donna is now living in Oregon. She was the founder of the Point Richmond History Association and a strong supporter of our church. Many of you may remember her and will want to add her to your prayer list.
- Plans are underway for our 6th Annual Jean Eakle Silent Auction on October 25, 2014, 4-7 pm at the Point San Pablo Yacht Club, 700 W. Cutting Blvd. Art work, jewelry, arts & crafts, raffle, hors d’oeuvres, music and a whole lot of fun! Suggested donation $10. Letters will be going out soon to encourage local businesses to donate. We are hoping to raffle off dinners for two, gym memberships, gift certificates, etc. We plan to have items for sale as well as auction items. Do you have art work you no longer use? Do you knit, crochet, weave, potter, make jewelry, paint or sculpt? Would you like to donate to the auction? Can you recommend a contact person for businesses that may be interested in helping us out? Please contact Debbie Benko @ 510-517-6724 or DebBenko160@aol.com <mailto:DebBenko160@aol.com
- Camp Liberty Update: With the current fighting and chaos in Irag, our Irani friends in Camp Liberty need your prayers and support. I am sure this is a harrowing time for them. It is reported that there are armed guards at the gates with guns pointed into the camp at all times.
- Pastor Dan’s time away this summer:
- August 11-20 Vacation in Hawaii.
- August 28-September1 Western Methodist Justice Movement Meeting at Lake Tahoe.
The United Methodist Church has a shopping site a umcmarket.org where you can sign up and when you shop on line through the Market Place a percentage of your purchase comes to our church. They have updated the site and it is easier to use and user friendly. This is a very easy way to give.
- Finance Committee Meeting is scheduled for Saturday August 9, 1:00 pm at Matt and Jennifer Foster’s home.1052 Hawthorne Dr., Rodeo
- Administrative Board Meeting is Thursday, August 14, 7 pm in Friendship Hall..
- Sunday, August 17, Jean Reynolds will be faith sharing.
- Labor Day Weekend: August 29 through September 1st 2014, Stepping Out in Faith, sponsored by the Western Methodist Justice Movement which advocates compassionate US immigration policies, fully inclusive UMC ministries, human rights in the Philippines, a just peace for Israel-Palestine, reproductive justice and more.
- Registration is open. Lake Tahoe, Zephyr Point Retreat Center. For more info and to register: wmjm.org. Last day to register is August 15th.
- Saturday, September 20 the United Methodist Women will be having a Russian Tea. Save the date! More information as it becomes available.
- Sunday, October 12 at 5 pm the SF Munich Trio will be having a concert at our church. Rebecca Rust, cello, Friedrich Edelmann, bassoon and Miles Graber, piano We always look forward to their concerts. They have been playing in China and Italy with rave reviews. This is a don’t miss concert, their music is extraordinary. If you love classical music come and enjoy. Tickets are $15 at the door. If you would like to help with refreshments, let Barbara Haley know at firstname.lastname@example.org.Visit their website at http://www.edelmann-rust.com/ for information about them and their playing.
- The Point Richmond Jazz Concert series begins Friday, October 24 at 7:30 pm. The season opens with Jason Anick and Rhythm Future. This quartet performs dynamic and fiery arrangements of Gypsy Jazz standards and original compositions. First United Methodist Church, 201 Martina St., Richmond. Season Tickets for 8 concerts, $100. For more information about the performers and tickets go to prjazz.org. Tickets $20 at the door, $15 on line.
- 6th Annual Jean Eakle Silent Auction: Saturday, October 25, 2014, 4-7 pm, Point San Pablo Yacht Club, 700 W. Cutting Blvd, Richmond. Donation at door $10. We will have arts/crafts for bidding; music and hors d’oeuvres to satisfy other senses and a good time! To donate or offer help, contact Debbie Benko: 510 517 6724 or DebBenko160@aol.com. Donations needed! Tax deductible donations are needed. If you craft, knit, crochet, make jewelry, sculpt, paint etc.and would like to give, contact Debbie as above.
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